It is three weeks since Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize winner, shared his sexist opinion of female scientists – distractingly sexy, prone to weep when criticised and best segregated at work – with a room full of science writers. His remarks were relayed into the Twittersphere by several of those present, including British-based science writer Connie St Louis. At once, he came under global and sometimes viciously personal attack on social media. He delivered a non-apology on BBC radio. According to his wife, also a senior scientist at UCL, it was made clear to her that to protect UCL’s reputation, he had to resign.
Twitter is loud, shouty and mainly male. It is rubbish at nuance, detail
or ambivalence but it is perfect for rushing noisily to judgment,
sometimes – as women from Connie St Louis to Caroline Criado-Perez have learned – in a downright threatening way. It is not only academia that suffers from internet bullying. In Scotland, Labour has repeatedly asked the SNP
to deal with aggressive cybernats. The experience of UCL is another
warning that a Twitterstorm is a digital riot, and that is how it should
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